On April 5, 2012, House Bill 2308 was introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The bill addresses actions to quiet title involving subsurface rights. Specifically, in an action to quiet title involving subsurface rights to real property, failure by any person claiming to hold the subsurface rights, other than the surface owner of the real property, to exercise the subsurface rights for a period in excess of 50 years would create a rebuttable presumption that the subsurface rights have been abandoned by such person in favor of the surface owner.
HB 2308 defines “subsurface rights” to include mineral, oil or gas rights, or any combination thereof. This definition includes subsurface rights to shale gas, and appears to be intended to address recent uncertainty as to the validity of many mineral rights transfers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region. This uncertainty largely is based on a state appellate court’s ruling that Pennsylvania law is unclear as to whether shale gas is considered a mineral under an 1882 state Supreme Court decision, such that it could be transferred in the same way as other, more traditional mineral rights. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to review this decision, with briefing set to conclude next month.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for hearings. This blog will provide further information and analysis as the bill progresses.